If you don't include physical activity in your daily routine, what's stopping you? Consider common barriers to fitness - and practical strategies for keeping your exercise programme on track.
Sticking to a regular exercise schedule isn't easy. After all, there are plenty of potential hindrances - time, boredom, injuries, self-confidence. But these issues don't need to stand in your way. Consider practical strategies for overcoming common barriers to fitness.
Barrier: I'm self-conscious about how I look when I exercise
Don't get down on yourself! Remind yourself what a great favour you're doing for your cardiovascular health, or focus on how much stronger you feel after a workout. Praise yourself for improving your stamina and making a commitment to lifelong fitness.
If you're still uncomfortable exercising in the presence of others, go solo at first. Try an exercise video or an activity-oriented video game. Consider investing in a stationary bicycle, treadmill, stair-climbing machine or other piece of home exercise equipment. As you become healthier and more at ease with exercising, your self-confidence is likely to improve as well.
Barrier: I'm too tired to exercise after working all day
No energy to exercise? Without exercise, you'll have no energy. It's a vicious cycle. But breaking the cycle with physical activity is one of the best gifts you can give yourself.
Try a morning dose of exercise. Remember the suggestion to get up 30 minutes earlier to exercise? Hop on the treadmill or stationary bicycle while you listen to the radio or watch the morning news. Or step outside for a brisk walk.
Make lunchtime count. Keep a pair of walking shoes at your desk, and take a brisk walk during your lunch break.
Be prepared. Put workout clothes on top of your dresser, socks and all. Keep a full water bottle in the fridge. Have an exercise video queued up and ready to go when you get home at night.
Hit the hay earlier. Running on empty is no way to face a full day. Go to bed earlier to make sure you're getting enough sleep.
Barrier: I'm too lazy to exercise
If the mere thought of a morning jog makes you tired, try these thoughts on for size.
Set realistic expectations. If your mental bar is too high, you might give up without even trying. Start with a walk around the block. Don't give up if you feel worn out. Take another walk around the block tomorrow. Keep it up, and eventually you'll no longer feel worn out. That's progress!
Work with your nature, not against it. Plan physical activity for times of the day when you tend to feel more energetic ? or at least not quite so lazy.
Schedule exercise as you would schedule an important meeting or appointment. Block off times for physical activity, and make sure your friends and family are aware of your commitment. Ask for their encouragement and support.
Barrier: I'm not athletic
Natural athletic ability isn't a prerequisite to physical activity. Try something simple, such as a daily walk. Better yet, team up with friends who are in the same boat. Have fun while helping each other work out. Don't worry about becoming a superstar athlete or joining the hard-bodied athletes at the gym. Simply focus on the positive changes you're making to your body and mind.
Barrier: I've tried to exercise in the past and failed
Don't throw in the towel! You can't see it when you lower your cholesterol or reduce your risk of diabetes, but that doesn't mean you aren't doing yourself a great favour. Re-evaluate what went wrong, and learn from your mistakes.
Pace yourself. Start small and build up to more intense workouts later, when your body is ready.
Set realistic goals. Don't promise yourself you're going to work out for an hour every day, and then get down on yourself when you fall short. Stick with goals you can more easily achieve, such as exercising 20 minutes a day, three days a week for the first month.
Remember why you're exercising. Use your personal fitness goals as motivation ? and reward yourself as you meet your goals.
Barrier: I'm afraid I'll hurt myself if I exercise
If you're nervous about injuring yourself, start off on the right foot.
Take it slow. Start with a simple walking programme. As you become more confident in your abilities, add new activities to your routine.
Try an exercise class for beginners. You'll learn the basics by starting from scratch.
Consider working one-on-one with a personal trainer. Get a customized fitness tutorial from a certified expert, who can monitor your movements and point you in the right direction.
Barrier: My family and friends don't support my efforts to exercise regularly
Remind those close to you of the benefits of regular exercise ? and then bring them along for the ride!
Get your kicks with your kids. Sign up for a parent-child exercise class. Pack a picnic lunch and take your family to the park for a game of tag or kickball. Splash with the kids in the pool instead of watching from your chair.
Propose a new adventure. Instead of suggesting a workout at the gym, invite a friend to go to an indoor climbing wall or rent a tandem bicycle for the weekend.
If necessary, have a heart-to-heart with your loved ones. If they don't share your fitness ambitions, ask them to at least respect your will to get fit.
Ronald Abvajee is founder of My Personal Trainer Wellness, South Africa's first "virtual gym".